Sexual Harassment Facts
When sexual harassment victims first contact our office, we typically find very similar circumstances among situations and cases. Many of these situations are not what people would expect, which often leads sexual harassment victims to be hesitant to seek legal assistance.
1. Most Victims Do Not React to Harassment the Way They Think They Would.
The victim never believed she would tolerate harassment until it actually happened. In other words, they often have a belief that they would respond in a “strong” or emphatic way in opposition to the harasser. The reality is that most sexual harassment victims “freeze” when sexually harassing behavior first occurs. This leads to second guessing, guilt, and shame, for not reacting as one expected she would. However, there is definitive scientific evidence that explains this typical response.
2. Many Harassment Victims have a History of Sexual Trauma or Abuse.
While not always true, it is very common for sexual harassment victims to have some sexual trauma in her past, either as a child or as an adult. Sexual predators are very adept in seeking out individuals who are not as skilled as others when it comes to socially acceptable boundaries and standards of behavior. Often, but not always, sexual harassers will start out with relatively minor sexually harassing behavior and will continue to escalate the frequency and severity of the harassment when the victim does not immediately report the harassment. Harassers are often very skilled at convincing victims that their behavior is “normal” and that the victim is “overreacting” when she resists.
3. More Often than Not, Sexual Harassment is not Immediately Reported.
Sexual harassment victims often posses some very strong feelings of guilt, shame, a tendency to conceal the event even from their close friends and family members, and even a desire to protect the harasser in certain situations. While employers often attempt to blame the victim for not reporting the harassment sooner, studies have shown that the most typical reaction is not to immediately report sexual harassment for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
1. Failure to immediately recognize the behavior as harassment;
2. Lack of knowledge of the avenues for redress;
3. Fear of retaliation by the harasser, management, or co-workers;
4. Fear of negative economic or career consequences;
5. Shame and humiliation;
6. Concern about protecting the harasser (or his family);
7. Fear that the complaint will not be taken seriously;
8. Fear of negative impact on the victim’s family
9. Fear of emotional stress connected with reporting the harassment;
10. Belief that the victim can handle the situation herself;
11. Hope that the situation will improve on its own;
12. Belief that the situation will not be seen as serious enough to warrant a formal complaint;
13. Belief that the victim is somehow responsible for the harassment.
4. Sexually Harassing Workplaces Rarely Improve If the Victim Does not Act It is often extremely difficult (and scary) to report sexual harassment or to seek legal assistance. Delay in reporting or seeking legal help often compounds the victim’s sense of shame, guilt, and fear. More specifically, victims often believe that because they delayed reporting prior incidents of harassment, they will not be believed. This causes a cycle of further harassment, compounded by more guilt, shame, and embarrassment, which provides the harasser even more power to continue his harassment of the victim.
5. What Constitutes Sexual Harassment under the Law?
While every sexual harassment case is different, and you should obtain legal advice from a qualified sexual harassment lawyer to determine if you have a case, the following are typical examples of sexual harassment under the law in a workplace or work situation (can be offsite under certain circumstances):
1. Touching of any “private” part of the body (breasts, buttocks, genitals, and surrounding areas;
2. Comments of a sexual nature;
3. Displaying/disseminating/distributing/showing of pictures, video, audio, websites, etc. of a sexual nature;
4. Requests or commands to perform sexual acts;
5. Work decisions (promotions, raises, etc.) conditioned upon performance of sexual acts;
6. Unwanted physical attention (hugs, massages, shoulder rubs, etc.);
An employer is strictly liable (meaning responsible regardless of knowledge) for the sexually harassing acts of a supervisor. An employer is legally responsible for the sexually harassing acts of a co-worker if it knew or should have known that sexual harassment was taking place and failed to take appropriate corrective and remedial action (stopping the harassment). This is a simplistic explanation. If you think you are the victim of sexual harassment, you probably are and you should contact a qualified sexual harassment lawyer to find out where you stand.
6. What can a Sexual Harassment Attorney do for You?
For most sexual harassment victims, the first step is the hardest step. By contacting a qualified sexual harassment lawyer, you can first found out what your rights are and then either proceed, or not proceed. We do not charge for consultations if one is scheduled following your contact with our office. The vast majority of sexual harassment cases settle. This can happen before a lawsuit is filed, after a lawsuit is filed, or even on the “courthouse steps” right before or even during a trial. With that said, our office is prepared and qualified to take sexual harassment cases as far as necessary in order to obtain a just result for you. However, we are not in the business of convincing people to pursue cases until they are ready to do so. You are in charge of whatever course of action you choose to take. Whether you decide to proceed or not, all consultations are 100% confidential and are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
7. What will it Cost to Hire a Sexual Harassment Lawyer?
Our office accepts sexual harassment cases on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us a fee unless we obtain a recovery for you.
8. What should You do Next?
If you have been experiencing sexual harassment, call our office or fill out the intake form on our website. We will be in contact as soon as possible, which is almost always the same day you contact us (if contacted on a weekend or holiday we will usually contact you the next business day).